States of Emergency


Environmental disasters are plaguing the United States. While one governor prays for help, things are turning biblical from the bone-dry fields of Texas to the storm-blown Southeast.

The country's midsection faces a slow-motion disaster as heavy rains and snowmelt force the Mississippi River to swell over homes and roads. In Cairo, Ill., 100 homes were lost when a Missouri levee was blown up to save the town. Residents of Louisiana are fearful of oyster mortalities. Some of the state's inmates have been moved to higher ground. The equivalent of nearly 4 million football fields of farmland are underwater in Tennessee. "It's like a moving battlefield," said an Army Corps of Engineers spokesman.

During one recent 24-hour period, more than 250 tornadoes crashed through the South, a number that dwarfs the last record, set in 1974. More than 350 people were killed. Flattened buildings, overturned cars, and trees robbed of leaves showed the wind's might. One twister had wind speeds of up to 205 miles per hour. Police officers in Tuscaloosa, Ala., searched for missing people. The storms caused billions of dollars in damage.

In the past six months, 2 million Texas acres have gone up in flames. President Obama could see the smoke from the window of Air Force One when he visited the state recently (but declined to offer federal assistance). …

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